Category Archives: Sleeve Notes.

URSUS E LA RAGAZZA TARTARA. released Kronos records June 2019.

http://kronosrecords.com/KG31.html

KG31

SWORD, SANDAL OR ADVENTURE?

The collection of films that fall into the PEPLUM or SWORD AND SANDAL genre, as produced in Italy at the famous Cinecitta studios are for many an acquired taste, during the late 1960’s many of these movies found their way into British cinemas as a B feature or a support act if you will for the main film that was on the programme. Consequently, many of these Greek, Roman and Epic orientated movies were edited and edited harshly, in fact many being cut to the degree where the storyline and the continuity of the films were affected dramatically. Several the movies were produced as either spin offs or on the back of the success of the more popular Hollywood biblically slanted films such as THE ROBE and BEN HUR, plus taking their inspiration from films such as SPARTACUS. Of course, the budgets in Italy were not as big as Hollywood studios so this was reflected in the finished products. The Peplum threw up many variations of stories about characters such as Hercules, Goliath and others, at times the genre crossing over into other areas such as sci-fi and horror, which although rather odd always had to them a high level of entertainment value and were popular with audiences initially in Europe then outside of the continent. Film makers in Italy such as Sergio Corbucci cut his directorial teeth on creating sword and sandal yarns for the cinema and of course went onto be leading figures within the Italian Western genre and beyond, many directors, producers, screenwriters and actors that enjoyed success on Peplums, would also become stalwarts within other genres that were later created at Cinecitta. Although referred to as a SWORD AND SANDAL adventure, URSUS AND THE TARTAR PRINCESS or URSUS E LA RAGAZZA TARTARA-aka-TARTAR INVASION was not strictly a film that I would personally call a Peplum, because it was set in the 16000’s, at the time of the Polish/Tartar wars which was hundreds of years after the Romans and the Greeks. The film was a French/Italian co-production and starred Italian actor Ettore Manni and in the female lead Yoko Tani. The movies only real connection with the SWORD AND SANDAL genre was the name of URSUS in its title. The movie was for me somewhat disjointed and confusing at certain points, but this is probably due to the unsympathetic editing on the version I was seeing. Tartars from Crimea, attack Christians in Poland and in one of these attacks the Tartars capture the son of Ursus and take him to the Crimea where he is uncastrated.

Prince Stefan played by Ettore Manni is sent with a handful of soldiers to spy upon the Tartars, he is accompanied by Ursus who is anxious to bring his son back home. It is not long before Prince Stefan and his men are captured by Tartars who are led by Sulaiman (Tom Felleghy). But Sulaiman’s daughter Princess Ila (Yoko Tani) falls in love with Stefan and because of this Sulaiman spares Stefan on condition he converts to Muslim ways. Stefan however is strong willed, and it is the Princess who converts to Christianity so that she may marry Stefan. Ursus is re-united with his son but things do not end here, the Khan of the Tartars arrives and decides that the Princess should wed his son instead. Stefan and Ursus escape with Ursus’s son and the Princess and make their way to Poland. The Khan and his soldiers pursue them and there is a major battle in which the stories outcome is decided.

Kronos
THE MUSIC.
The musical score for the movie is by Italian Maestro Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, who composed numerous scores for the Peplum genre as well as writing extensively for Romantic tales, Westerns and Adventure films. Lavagnino wrote a rich and melodic score for URSUS AND THE TARTAR PRINCESS that is filled with dramatic and fast paced interludes, but it also has to it a warm and romantic sound, in which the composer employs lush strings and subdued but melodic and affecting woodwinds, that combine to create a wonderfully luxurious sound. The composer also utilises choral passages which inject and purvey an atmosphere that is filled with a distinctly religious mood. Lavagnino evokes the style of the Hollywood film score within this epic sounding work, recalling the styles of composers such as Miklos Rozsa, Franz Waxman and Alfred Newman with his majestic symphonic soundtrack. The composers clever use of brass and percussion is prominent for most of the work and it is this combination that creates the grandiose aura of the score.

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THE OPENING TITLES, for example begin with brass flourishes that are underlined and pushed along by driving strings, interspersed by timpani and percussion the composer fashioning an urgent but at the same time regal sounding piece, the cue however soon slows and changes direction and style, Lavagnino creating a distinctive Eastern European flavour, via the use of balalaika and supporting this with strings, horns and gentle percussive sounds. The track MICHAEL ABDUCTED is a short-lived piece, but affecting, initially it is a quiet and low-key composition, but this alters as the action on screen also changes, the composer enlisting brass and percussion to create a more threatening and robust musical scenario. For a score that was originally recorded fifty-eight years ago the sound and style is remarkably good, Lavagnino utilises lilting tone poems alongside tense and dramatic pieces to generate a rich and vibrant work.

 

Lavagnino

ANGELO FRANCESCO LAVAGNINO.
Born in Genoa Italy on February 22nd, 1909, Lavagnino, came from a musical family and was attracted to film music from an early age when he heard an orchestra accompany a silent movie. In many film music connoisseurs opinions Lavagnino was one of the Fathers of Italian film music, an innovator and a highly talented and original music-smith he graduated from the Giuseppe Verdi music conservatory in Milan, with a diploma in violin and composition and spent much of his early career working as a musician in orchestras that were performing in the concert halls and opera houses in Italy. Whilst doing this he also began to teach music and it was during this period that Lavagnino decided to start to compose music for film, his first foray into film scoring came in 1947 when he wrote the music for the comedy drama, NATALE AL CAMPO 119, which was directed by Pietro Francisci and starred Vittorio de Sica. As the 1950, s began Lavagnino started to become known within his native Italy as a composer of great talent producing music of high quality and also he was able to adapt to any genre or style of film. He also continued to teach music at this time and helped other composers come to grips with the technicalities of film scoring, one such composer was Francesco De Masi who he not only tutored but engaged as an assistant for a few years. The composers first major film scoring assignment came in 1951 when he provided the soundtrack for OTHELLO which was directed by Orson Welles, Lavagnino also scored the actor/directors FALSTAFF-CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT in 1965 and it was probably because of his first collaboration with Welles that the composer began to be offered assignments on bigger budget productions which included non-Italian movies such as Henry Hathaway’s action, drama, adventure LEGEND OF THE LOST, which starred John Wayne, Sophia Loren and Rossano Brazzi in 1957, the Italian/American co-production ESTHER AND THE KING for Director Raoul Walsh in 1960 and the British made monster movie, GORGO in 1961. Lavagnino seemed to excel when he wrote music for documentaries and won awards for his work in this area of film. At the Cannes film festival in 1955 he was nominated for the Palme d’Or for his music to CONTINENTE PERDUTO and won the special jury prize at the same festival for the score. In the same year he won the Silver ribbon award for his score to CONTINENTE PERDUTO which came from The Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. In 1956 his stunning score for L’IMPERO DEL SOLE (EMPIRE IN THE SUN) garnered him another nomination from the film journalists and in 1957 he was awarded the silver ribbon from the same organisation for his music to VERTIGINE BIANCA (WHITE VERTIGO).

Lavagnino was Sergio Leone’s first choice of composer when the filmmaker was in pre-production on A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, but the director was persuaded to engage a lesser known young composer named Ennio Morricone, because the film’s distributor felt that Morricone would be a better choice. One wonders if the music for the Italian western genre would have evolved in a different way or indeed would have been as successful as it was if Lavagnino had scored the first Leone western. I say this because although Lavagnino’s music was always highly original it was certainly more classical in its style and sound than Morricone’s and often leaned towards a more Americanized or conventional sound as in Dimitri Tiomkin and Max Steiner with some elements of what can now be deemed as being Spaghetti infused passages. After A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, Lavagnino created numerous western scores and put his own unmistakable musical fingerprint upon them. In the latter part of 1964 and throughout 1965, Lavagnino composed the score for 5000 DOLLARI SULL’ASSO which was his first foray into the Euro-western Arena, in addition to this he penned the scores to, THE TRAMPLERS, L’UOMO DALLA PISTOLA D’ORO, THE MAN FROM CANYON CITY, OCASO DE UN PISTOLERO, SEVEN HOURS OF GUNFIRE, JOHNNY WEST IL MANCINO, SOLO CONTRO TUTTI and the comedy western I DUE SERGENTI DEL GENERALE CUSTER. He also provided music too at least another seven western movies over the next few years one of the last was, SAPEVANO SOLO UCCIDERE in 1971. Lavagnino scored over 300 movies during his illustrious career, which included, URSUS AND THE TARTAR PRINCESS, THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES, CONSPIRACY OF HEARTS, FIVE BRANDED WOMEN, THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII, THE LOST CONTINENT, THE NAKED MAJA, VENERE IMPERIALE, L’ULTIMO PARADISO and THE WIND CANNOT READ, and was responsible for creating some of cinemas most haunting and atmospheric soundtracks for Italian and international productions, his music supporting, enhancing, ingratiating and in certain cases almost caressing the movie or project he was involved with. The composer passed away in Gavi, Italy on August 21st, 1987.

j mansell (c)2019.

OMA MAA.

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER FROM KRONOS RECORDS.

http://kronosrecords.com/K92.html
omamaa

 

Finnish film maker Markku Polonen has created a stunning looking movie in the form of OMA MAA (HOMELAND). The story focuses upon Finland from the end of the second world war in 1945 through to 1952 which was the year of the Helsinki Olympics and concentrates on the two central characters, Anni played by Oona Airola and Veikko portrayed by Konsta Laasko who against the backdrop of difficult and testing times fall in love, their relationship is tested when Veikko who was wounded during the war becomes ill. Finland had fought long and hard in the second world war firstly against Russia and then against the Third Reich. This period directly after the war years was a difficult time in Finland as they had to re-settle over 450.000 evacuees and also care for war invalids from Karelia. The country also had the task of building 100,000 new homes. OMA MAA is a touching and dramatic tale which is superbly crafted and directed, the movie having a high level of production standards in all areas. The musical score is the work of composer Pessi Lovanto who has created a romantically laced soundtrack that is delicate, sweeping and lush. The composer is one of the most prominent and sought after in his home country of Finland but is most certainly expanding his work internationally. The composer has written the scores for fifteen motion pictures and his approach to writing film music is a fusion of both vintage styles and more contemporary colours and methods. He also has a musical identity outside of the world of film music as Lovanto acts as a conductor and is a talented and innovative arranger. One of his most successful non-film music projects was with the Helsinki Philharmonic with CLASSICAL TRANCELATIONS, where the orchestra performed club classics. He has also been responsible for writing a number of chart topping songs for Korean and Japanese artists such as ARASHI and THE AFTERSCHOOL.

 

PESSI2
THE COMPOSER ON THE SCORE.
Interview with John Mansell.
Can I begin by asking you how you became involved on Oma Maa?

“I have made music for three films before for the production company Solar Films, the biggest one in Finland. Their producer Rimbo Salomaa, with whom we had worked on a previous film ”Unexpected Journey”, wanted to bring me in to this project as he though my style would work well with this world. So I had the luxury of getting a direct call from the producer.”

The score is very melodic and lush in places but also contains some nice jazz sounding cues, what size orchestra did you use for the recording?

“We used a professional Finnish orchestra called Tapiola Sinfonietta which is about 45 players. I did the jazz cues separately and had drums, bass, guitar and piano pre-recorded elsewhere. This style of jazz, called foxtrot in it’s time, was rather popular in Finland at the time when the story takes place. I also had one folk-style violin to do some solo lines on top of the orchestra to give a slight folk-music vibe in places.”
At what stage of the production did you become involved, and was the director specific as to what style of music you should compose and how much time did you have to complete the score?

“They had shot the summer scenes in July-August of 2017 and were to shoot the winter scenes in March 2018. I was brought in in November 2017 and started discussing initial ideas with the director. He had some preferences and reference tracks he liked and I began to make some demos of the main themes based on that. He likes the oboe a lot so I put that in quite a bit. Also he made it clear that its a melodrama and that I should not shy away from being lush in the right places. It always takes some time to come up with a core idea you believe is strong enough to carry many repetitions but once that is done, it gets a lot easier and the score begins to write itself. I got a cut of the film (minus the winter scenes) in early January 2018 and wrote all those cues in January and February. Then after the winter shooting they edited those scenes in and I wrote some new music for the inserted scenes. So actually we had plenty of time considering how quickly film scores have to be done sometimes.”

PESSI
How much music did you write for the movie and is the entire score on this Compact disc or is it a selection of cues that are representive of the music in the movie and did you have any part in assembling what cues were to be used on the release?

“The CD has all the music I wrote for the film. Being an European indie film there is not that much music compared to a fantasy or animation but if you see the film I think you’ll agree that it’s a good idea since the music really has some meaning and impact when it comes in after a period of no music.”
Was the movie temp tracked at all and do you find the use of this tool by film makers helpful or distracting?

”I had made demos in the early phase and they used those for the edit. I was really happy that they didn’t use much temp music as it often presents a real problem for the composer. ”Temp track love” is a major challenge to the composer and the sooner we can get rid of the temp track the better. I usually try to avoid this by writing demos beforehand which they can use in the edit or submit some of my own music from previous films for that purpose as it’s much easier for me to replace my own music than John Williams’ music.”

PESSI1
You conducted the score, do you normaly conduct all your own film music and also do you carry out the orchestration?

”I conduct my own scores whenever possible. Sometimes when done abroad it’s not practical if the players don’t speak English so then it’s better if a local conductor does it. I had an assistant in this project who cleaned up my midi files from my Cubase sessions I had used to make demos for the director but then I orchestrated the cues myself after that. Orchestration is something I really enjoy and consider a bit of a speciality so I like to do that myself if time permits.

MACRO- GIUDA UCCIDE IL VENERIDI

 

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Released in 1973, MACRO- GIUDA UCCIDE IL VENERIDI (aka- JUDAH KILLS FRIDAY) was directed by Stelvio Massi, The, films screenplay was penned by Mario Giazzo and Sophia Kammara, the latter also taking a leading role in the movie. The film is a mix of drama. Romance, crime and sexploitation. On researching the movie, I found hardly any information on it, and it looks as if it was a film that maybe was not that popular when it was released, however the plus side is that the musical score is by one of Italy’s most well-known composers from the 1960’s through to the 1980’s. Nico Fidenco began his career as a singer, but he had always been fascinated with the cinema and made a decision that he would try and break into writing music for films. But. Why did he change direction as he was becoming well known as a singer and was having hits?
“When I was singing I did a few cover versions of movie songs: EXODUS, MOON RIVER, SUZIE WONG and WHAT A SKY, for example.

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These recordings were very popular in Italy and my interest in movies grew more out of this, so I decided to try and write some material myself. Cinema has always attracted me, even as a child, and to be a part of the cinema world was like a dream come true”. Fidenco, has worked on a variation of genres throughout his career, what was the first score for a movie that he was involved on? “It will probably not be a surprise when I tell you it was a Western, a Spanish-Italian co-production entitled IN THE SHADOW OF THE COLT. It was a very low budget film, nothing like the films of Leone, but nevertheless it was popular in Italy and Spain of course. Well I don’t think it got released anywhere else, so I’m glad it was popular in these two countries, the theme was recorded on a 45-rpm record when the movie was in the cinema and to my surprise, sold over ten thousand copies in Italy, which at that time was the early 1960’s was very good indeed”.

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Cover for the CAM Single.

The score for MACRO- GIUDA UCCIDE IL VENERIDI, is at times evocative of the style of Ennio Morricone the composer utilising a light and rhythmic Bossa nova sound that is interspersed with harpsichord flourishes giving the score a rich sound that also is reminiscent of the works of Cipriani and Trovajoli. A sound that Fidenco often re-created via his use of many of the musicians and vocal artists that performed on many of the Italian soundtracks at that time, At, times he would use the choir of Allessandro Alessandroni’ IL CANTORI MODERNI on his soundtracks. What was it like working with Alessandroni?

 

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I never actually worked with him in the sense of writing anything together, but yes, I did have him, and his excellent choir perform on some of my scores. If I remember correctly JOHN IL BASTARDO, DYNAMITE JIM and two of the EMMANUELLE soundtracks were performed by them, and RINGO IL TEXICAN I think.  It was all such a long time ago, but Alessandroni was a wonderful person. He was a talented performer, with his guitar and whistle, and a gifted and very underrated composer. Nora Orlandi would also conduct her choir on some of my scores – things like EL CHE GUEVARA. I think she also is very good. Alessandroni was a very good friend of Giacamo Dell Orso who conducted most of my soundtracks. His wife Edda has an exquisite voice and is responsible for a lot of work on Morricone soundtracks, as I’m sure you know. Giacamo would take my musical sketches and turn them into something special. He is a skilled orchestrator and an excellent conductor.

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This the first time that the complete soundtrack for MACRO- GIUDA UCCIDE IL VENERIDI, has been released on any recording, apart from two tracks that were issued on a CAM single record (AMP 122) at the time of the films release. Which is now something of a rarity. In my opinion the music of Nico Fidenco is just as important as that of Morricone, Nicolai, De Masi and Cipriani. He was responsible for creating the sound of an era, his scores being haunting and dramatic each and every one of them having a life away from the films for which they were intended to support, enhance and punctuate. Did Fidenco himself think that his music had stood the test of time and endured over the years. His western scores. “I do consider the music I provided for these movies to be good, and yes it still has a certain something to it now, but that is my opinion. I know that many Italian Westerns that I thought were great during the 1970’s etc. are for me very hard to sit through now. Times change and so do tastes and styles. It’s all down to the individual, I think”.

John Mansell ©2018.
Move music international.

Pre-order now at Kronos records, Release date August 25th 2018.

http://kronosrecords.com/KG29.html

1. Titoli
2 . Tema
3 . Titoli Prolungamento
4 . Gioventu
5 . Un Viavai
6 . Allegro
7 . Suspense – Rise And Shine
8 . Rise And Shine
9. Suspense II
10. Macabro
11. Suspense III
12. Estasi
13. Allegro
14. Suspense IV
15. Andante
16. Rise And Shine
17. Allegro
18. Allegro
19. Passione
20. Giuda Uccide Il Venerdi (instr)
21. Suspense IV (alt)
22. Coda
23. Coda
24. Suspense II (alt)
25. Strimpello
26. Passeggiata
27. Rise And Shine (short)
28. Suspense – Rise And Shine Prolungamento
29. Suspense II (alt 2)
30. Mistero
31. Giuda Uccide Il Venerdi
32. Passeggiata (alt)
33. Rise And Shine

THE WINGED SERPENT.

KG30

THE WINGED SERPENT or Q THE WINGED SERPENT as it is also known, is one of those movies that one must see, ok, it may not be Oscar material, but it is made in the style of many vintage horror flicks. In this case there is a monster on the loose in the form of Quetzalcoatl, who is a winged serpent that was worshipped by the Aztecs, the flying monster has taken up residence in New York and is snatching construction workers and the like to sustain its self.

WING

Enter then a small-time crook, called Jimmy Quinn played convincingly by actor Michael Moriarty, who gives a wonderfully edgy and nervous performance. Quinn discovers the nest of the serpent and when he is caught for a robbery uses the information to barter his way out of going to jail. Two of New York’s finest detectives Shepard and Powell played by David Carradine (Kung Fu) and Richard Rountree (Shaft) who are already investigating a spate of mysterious deaths on high rise buildings and the discovery of skinned corpse’s in the City, decide to investigate Jimmy’s wild claims and to their amazement discover he is telling the truth. The movie itself is something of a tribute to monster movies of yester-year where a predatory creature runs amok in the city and destroys and devours the population. Filled with tension, comedy and a rather rubbery looking flying serpent which is created via the stop-motion animation process, THE WINGED SERPENT maybe cliched and draws upon scenarios and situations that have been utilised before within many Hollywood movies of the B variety. Saying this however, these scenarios and situations work.

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The movies fast moving but highly implausible storyline entertains and keeps the audience interested. Director Larry Cohen successfully mixes science fiction with horror and incorporates a crime caper and the down to earth New York locations with the horror/science fiction elements to create a low budget but interesting and appealing motion picture. The musical score by composer Robert O Ragland lends much to the films storyline and underlines, punctuates and supports the action unfolding on screen effectively, the composer has to a certain degree re-created the style and sound that we associate with horror pictures from the 1950’s and 1960’s, the WINGED SERPENT having an eerie and somewhat foreboding sounding musical motif, that accompanies and introduces the creature each time it is on screen or about to make an entrance. The music is powerful and works with the movie without being too overpowering. The composers brooding and at certain points explosive score becoming an important and integral component of the overall effectiveness of the film.

 

 

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The soundtrack was originally released in the United States on the Cerebus recording label (CST 0206), when the company issued a 21 track LP of the music with stunning front cover art work back in 1983, the score was then made available on a compact disc when CAM records in Italy issued the disc as a limited edition as part of their Soundtrack Encyclopaedia series with an additional cue. Robert Oliver Ragland was born on July 3rd, 1931, in Chicago Illinois. He is known for his film scores and associated for creating effective soundtracks for several low budget B movies. The composer was originally in advertising but decided to take a chance and try to break into writing music for films and television.

 

Ragland
Composer Robert O Ragland.

His career in Hollywood began in 1968 and during his thirty-year career the composer penned the scores for over fifty motion pictures. His interest in music began when he was a young boy, the composer playing the piano and later when he was in school he would organize performances by dance bands. He served in the U.S. Navy for a few years and after this enrolled at the North Western University from where he graduated. After this Ragland became an arranger for the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra and whist doing this gained degrees and awards in music from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. Ragland also attended the Academy of Music in Vienna. After the death of Tommy Dorsey, Ragland returned to the world of advertising, but this was short lived, and he returned to music and began to write for film once again working on films such as, SEVEN ALONE, ABBY, PONY EXPRESS RIDER, SHARKS TREASURE, 10 TO MIDNIGHT and many others, Q THE WINGED SERPENT amongst them. The composer also acted as musical director for Awards shows such as the Oscars and the Emmy’s. he retired from the music industry in 2005. Robert O Ragland dies on April.18th 2012, at the Cedars Sinai Medical Centre, in Los Angeles California.

John Mansell. Movie Music International. ©2018.

pre order at Kronos records. release date August 25th 2018.

 http://kronosrecords.com/KG30.html

1. Q: Main Title
2. Filet Of Human Soul
3. Blood Drops From The Sky
4. Jewellery Heist
5. Chrysler Building
6. Womb At The Top
7. Corpse In The Rafters
8. He Crawls, He Flies
9. The Winged Serpent
10. Crunch, Crunch
11. Joan Learns The Ugly Truth
12. A Bird’s Eye View – Manhattan
13. Shep’s Report Dumped
14. Troops Prepare – Giant Omelette
15. Prime Suspect
16. Ritual In The Warehouse
17. Big Birds Last Stand
18. Witchdoctor’s Revenge
19. Another Stab At It
20. Chicken Or The Egg
21. Q – Main Title
22. Dancing Too Close To The Flame
23. Blood Drops From The Sky (alt)
24. Jewelry Heist (alt)
25. Chrysler Building (alt)
26. Lunch Break
27. Horrible Pictures
28. He Crawls, He Flies (alt)
29. Q Sighting
30. Jewel Hide
31. Pushups – Back Home
32. Quinn Detained
33. Joan Learns The Ugly Truth (alt)
34. Quinn Thrown Out
35. Good Old Fashioned Monster
36. End Title
37. Ritual Preparations
38. The Ritual
39. Suite
40 . Let’s Fall Apart Together Tonight

DRAMMI GOTICI (GOTHIC DRAMAS).

Notes for the DRG release.   The CD  was released in 1999.

These were my first ever sleeve notes, I have edited them slightly to omit info that is now known by many.

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Composer Ennio Morricone began his film music career back in the 1960’s. Scoring movies in those days as life itself was in my opinion much simpler and straightforward. Even now many years after he scored his first movie it is probably the music from the decade of the 1960’s that most people associate with the Maestro. It was after all a period of intense creative out for the composer, who was fashioning innovative and highly original pieces it seemed every day. The composer these days does not apparently like to talk of the early days of his career when he was writing scores to Spaghetti westerns. Morricone was responsible for penning the scores for approximately twenty westerns from 1961 through to 1969. The landmark scores being Sergio Leones DOLLAR trilogy A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY. The latter gaining international acclaim and popularity via the many cover versions that were recorded. As the decade of the 1970’s dawned the appeal and attraction of the Western all’a Italiana seemed to take something of a dip and made way for the likes of Sci Fi movies, Spy thrillers and such like. Directors who had been involved with the Italian made western were moving on and branching out into genres such as Horror, Giallo and Romance. Movies about organised crime, the Mafia, gangsters etc were now becoming much in demand and as always Italian film makers stepped up to deliver movies with outrageous but entertaining plots and somewhat quirky storylines. Morricone contributed to many of these productions, it it true to say that the composers output during the decades of the 60’s and 70’s verged upon the unbelievable, it seemed that his name was every where and a new movie was in the cinemas on a daily basis Films such as THE SICILIAN CLAN, CITTA VIOLENTA, METTI UNA CERA A SENA, LA CASSE, A MAN TO RESPECT the list is endless. It was also at this time that Morricone collaborated with film maker Dario Argento, the composers unique style and creativity being well suited to the fraught and at times perversely tense movies that came from the mind of the Master of the Macabre.

 

IL GATTO NOVA CODA and 4 MOSCHE DI VELLUTO GRIGO being just two examples. It is true to state that Argento changed the way in which horror movies were made, and Morricone also influenced a generation or two of composers who still today practice what Morricone began.

 

 

 

The music on this compact disc, is taken from a television series entitled GOTHIC DRAMAS, this was a series that was produced in 1977, and directed by Georgio Bandini, the series was aired by RAI UNO and achieved mild success at the time of its screening. Morricone had worked in TV before GOTHIC DRAMAS, but the Maestro was essentially involved in music for the big screen as opposed to writing for the television. However, during the 1970’s he was responsible for writing the end titles music for the American TV western THE VIRGINIAN which had undergone something of a facelift and was re-titled THE MEN FROM SHILO. The composer also scored the mini series MOSES THE LAWGIVER in 1975, which became essential viewing throughout Europe. The production was quite lavish for television, with companies from England and Italy collaborating to bring it fruition, Burt Lancaster starred in the title role.

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Morricone also worked on LA MANI SPORCHE (DIRTY HANDS) for TV, which was directed by Elio Petri, who Morricone had worked with before, most notably on INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION in 1970, and continued to write for the small screen with the score for BLOODLINE, which was an adaptation of the novel by Sidney Sheldon, it boasted an international all-star cast, which included James Mason and Audrey Hepburn, and THE PRINCE OF THE DESERT, which included cues that were originally destined for John Huston’s THE BIBLE which Morricone was asked to score, his music never being used. Although Morricone was just as busy during the 1970’s as he was in the previous decade, the movies he worked on were not as memorable apart from the obvious titles, such as DUCK YOU SUCKER, NOVECENTE and TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA. The composer scored mainly French and Italian movies during this period, but occasionally ventured into writing the soundtracks for American productions such as DAYS OF HEAVEN, THE EXCORCIST ll-THE HERETIC and ORCA KILLER WHALE.

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These however were not huge box office attraction and have only in recent years been appreciated for their attributes, good or bad. Many of the films that Morricone worked on were not shown outside of Italy, but the soundtrack albums still sold well, with collectors purchasing them simply because the music was by Ennio Morricone and not because they had even heard the music and liked it. GOTHIC DRAMAS was split into four episodes, these went under the titles of KAISERSTRASSE, which was based on stories by Hans H Ewers. MA NON E! UN VAMPIRO? (BUT IS SHE A VAMPIRE) Which was constructed around a Sicilian fable written by Luigi Capuana; LA CASSE DELLA STREGHE (THE HOUSE OF WITCHES) based upon three works by H.P LOVECRAFT and DIARIO DI UN PAZZO (DIARY OF A MADMAN) which was an adaptation from the works of Gogol.

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The scores that Morricone created for the series cannot really be described as being rich in thematic content or filled with lush musical passages, on the contrary the Maestro wrote a largely atonal score for each episode, it also took on the guise of a somewhat modernist and slightly Avant Garde sound and style, which can be heard in the concert music of the Maestro. Morricone produced an interesting and original set of soundtracks for the series, each one different, but at the same time containing a sound and distinct musical persona that we associate with the composer. The music was as complex and perplexing as the scenes and stories being acted out on screen, underlining and punctuating each sinister and heart stopping moment. But as always there are a handful of less fraught pieces, which act as a calming interlude in a plethora of malevolent cues. These include Track number 2, LA STRADA DELLA FOLLIA, a track from KAISERSTRASSE, the part of the score opens with an enchanting and mesmerising choir, which has a childlike sound to it, the voices being complimented and augmented by the subtle use of harp that is plucked delicately sensually, creating an atmosphere that is warm and safe. The voices soften and eventually melt away, leaving the harp to perform solo the central theme that the choir began. Morricone is a master at his craft and is known for scoring moments in a movie that can be disturbing or violent with a light almost delicate touch, thus allowing the audience to have no warning of what is about to happen until the images show this, it then being too late and the audience having been drawn in and given a false sense of security by the music are shocked even more, giving the scene maximum impact and effect.
Also, within the score for KAISERSTRASSE the composer utilises a music box effect, FUORI DALLA REALTA, this is a simple melody, that is embellished by the use of voices, together the two elements are angelic in their initial sound, but at the same time the simplicity and subtlety conjure up a sense of unease. KAISERSTRASSE also includes a barrel organ effect, or maybe a hurdy-gurdy sound, which if I am correct most would associate with a circus or fun fair, but in the hands of Morricone it takes on a more sinister and evil persona, suggesting to anyone listening to the recording that all is probably not well, or as it should be. The effect is recorded with an echo, so it becomes even more of a threatening and foreboding sound, Morricone again is a master at this type of scoring. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST for example, the harmonica was up until the release of Leone’s masterpiece considered as being a happy and jaunty sounding instrument played around campfires where cowboys told stories and thought of a home on the range. But, again in the hands of Morricone, it is a pre cursor of a gunfight, an announcement of death a shady and frightening sound.

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Track number 5, on KAISERSTRASSE is harrowing and icy sounding piece, PIOGGIA being performed by harpsichord which undulates in and out of the composition, creating a spidery and otherworldly effect, this is underlined and laced with short sharp stabs and fleeting notations performed by woodwind and strings that are fused with a chiming effect, together they create an eerie sound that is not only un-nerving but one that evokes a mood of desperation and apprehension. The second score that is represented on the recording is from MA NON E! UN VAMPIRO?, this section opens with a theme that I am told opened each of the episodes, this instalment is the only one out of the four that has any background information available, so maybe this was the most popular of the quartet? A gentleman, Giorgio, marries a widow and everything as they say is as it should be, the couple have a child, but the boy becomes ill wasting away as if drained of life itself, then the widows dead husband returns from the grave, and it is clear he is the cause of the child’s illness. Giorgio sends for a friend Mongeri who is a scientist that dabbles in vampire hunting! Mongeri dispatches the dead husband by burning him and everything returns to normal, then Mongeri meets a widow and marries and the scenario begins again. The music for this episode is a mixture of styles that include chaotic string performances, choral work and atonal sounds and stabs, but there is also some fragile and beautifully crafted cues for solo violin, violin that is flawlessly performed by Dino Asciolla, who Morricone had turned to before and also continued to work with, Asciolla performed the stunning violin solos for the score to the RED TENT in 1969. The performer is also featured in the third score HOUSE OF WITCHES, his performances being fused with chimes, plucked harp, driving tense strings and choir, that are in turn further embellished by harpsichord, solo voice and the sound od a female soprano gently exhaling combined with a tinkling effect that makes the listener literally shudder.

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The fourth score, DIARIO DI UN PAZZO (DIARY OF A MADMAN) is as the title suggests madness in music form, or at least in the sounds and music that is utilised. Manic shrieks, tortured voices, laughs, half heard whispers, piercing screams and hysterical crying all come together in a chaotic and mind-bending piece which runs for some 12 minutes, I would not recommend listening to this is a darkened room or alone as it would probably spook you severely. GOTHIC DRAMAS is a look into the highly original and innovative musical style of Ennio Morricone, who we all know is a composer that is not afraid to experiment and push the musical boundaries to the limit, and when he does he creates yet another style and musical genre.
John mansell 1999.